Thursday, 11 August 2011

Return of the Green Ink Brigade

I'm looking at a mid-green ink, to go in my Pilot Capless. I want something in between the two greens I currently own: Diamine Woodland Green (too dark) and Diamine Kelly Green (too light).

The front-runner so far is J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage, followed by Caran d'Ache Amazon and perhaps Waterman Green in third.

I would be grateful for any views on the relative pros and cons of these inks. I can get Pelikan Brilliant Green locally, but only as a last resort.


I'm sure by now many readers will have seen the appalling riots that took place a few days ago in my home town, London, and elsewhere in England. The authorities are dealing with the problem; Parliament even sat today in a rare emergency session (during the Summer Recess, no less) to discuss the matter. Residents in the affected parts of town have responded by cleaning up their communities.

The violence is confined to the cities; the small town where I live is completely safe. Watching the live television coverage of the looting, it was clear that only certain stores were being targeted for robbery. I looked in vain to see if any stationers had been raided. Consumer electronics, branded sportswear and training shoes, jewelry and alcohol were obviously high on the wish-lists of the looters, but not stationery. There were no people filmed with arm-fulls of lever-arch files or pockets stuffed with Staedtlers. Palimpsest, living closer to the action, confirmed as much with this post about a local branch of Ryman which was unscathed.

As she says, "a riot is a complex beast" and I'll not offer any explanations about it here. It now emerges, though, as the first defendants appear before the courts, that many of those arrested and charged for alleged crimes were not feckless youths but in fact people who should have known better, such as a teaching assistant, university graduates and even a graphic designer: the kind of people for whom stationery might have been an attractive target.

Friday, 5 August 2011

"Having a Lovely Time, Wish You Were Here"

First, let me apologise for the long gap since my last post. It was over a month ago, on 30 June. I have no excuses for this; I just needed a break from blogging, as I was busy at work.

That's not to say that I have not been busy on the stationery front. I made my first visit to a local branch of Staples where I bought a Stabilo Boss 40th Anniversary highlighter set (eight Boss highlighters in a mug), a Colop S120 mini self-inking date stamp and spare ink pads, and some sealable plastic storage boxes from the Really Useful Box company. The Boss mugs come in three colours: green, yellow and orange. Mine is the green mug, with the message "I AM THE BOSS" (see link). I intend to use it as a desk-tidy. Perhaps I'll get the others, too.

The boxes I bought were a 4-litre flat box for storing some astronomical equipment, and a 0.55-litre pencil box. I liked the latter so much I bought some more, in order to store a collection of pencils I was very kindly sent by Gunther in Germany. I have four of them now, but I need more, in order to organise my burgeoning pencil collection in a sensible way.

As for Staples itself, it pretty much met my expectations: all the basics covered well enough, some special offers, lots of stock, but not much exotica. That's fine by me, it's another outlet to peruse from time to time when I'm in the area. Their stores are some distance away (about 25 miles from my house in each direction) so I doubt I'll make special journeys to go, but the prices are reasonable, certainly in comparison with the Stationers That Shall Not Be Named.

But on the main point of this blog post. It was this post in the Guardian that piqued my interest yesterday. I am a part of the Fountain Pen Network postcard exchange scheme, and have three correspondents around the world, in California, Australia and Shetland. I regret to say however, that I am very lax about keeping this up (as my penfriend Richard in Georgia, USA would probably agree) so I send probably only two or three times a year. The last time was in April, just before the Royal wedding. Like blogging, I have to be in the right mood to do it. The process of selecting suitable cards, writing the message and sending them is not the problem, but remembering to do so in the first place. I try to make an effort on the rare occasions I travel outside England, and certainly sent postcards when I went on holiday in Turkey in 2009.

The reasons for the decline in postcard sending probably lie in a fatal conjunction of convenience of electronic media, the rising cost of postage, and postage delays. Many was the time that my postcards arrived after I did; it happened after that Turkey holiday, and previous Mediterranean holidays within and outwith the EU. I don't know about the inefficiencies of overseas postal services, but I could guess they have gone the same way as Royal Mail, which has certainly reduced services over time. A first-class stamp was once a near-guarantee of next-day delivery; now it's merely an aspiration.

In Britain, postcard designs are as typical as anywhere in the world, with heavily-doctored photography a common theme (check out the work of John Hinde for example). However, we do have one speciality, which, although copied by others around the world, is not matched by any other: the saucy postcard. And in this area, one name is king: Donald McGill, who practically invented the genre and whose work may still be found at the seaside to this day. Here is a typical example, which landed him in court on an obscenity charge. His work sailed close to the wind in deeply conservative 20th-Century Britain, but was firmly in our satirical traditions such as this or this or perhaps, bringing proceedings to the present, this.